I would just like to say thank you to all of the cyclists who came to support Michael's family yesterday, to those who just sent their message of support, and to those who were with us in spirit anyway.
It was a big day, and although deeply sad and moving, also a beautiful day - the beauty of Michael's life, the beauty of his close family, the beauty of the overwhelming support from all of you - it meant so much to Michael's family and the others there.
The scene of the hearse being led off by a lone cyclist with the rest of us following behind was also apparently very special and moving.
For those who were not able to be there, below I include my part. It is written from my perspective but encompasses in many ways our feelings as a group for Michael, and also emphasises just what a close-knit and supportive bunch the cycling community is. I feel privileged and humbled to be a part of such a community.
Thank you again.
05/02/1966 - 15/03/2011
On the Occasion of the Funeral Service
Burnside City Uniting Church
30th March 2011
For those who don’t know me, I am David Burnett.
Michael rode with many cycling groups, and our Tuesday evenings ‘Night Espresso’ group was no exception. Eric and I, were riding immediately behind Michael on the Tuesday night that he crashed.
Never did we dream that night would be his last ride.
On Tuesday night last week, a group of us - honoured by the attendance of Michael’s family - held a memorial gathering at the accident site just up from Eagle on the Hill, and fixed there now, is a small plaque in memory of that night and our riding mate.
I have been asked by Michael’s family to say a few words about Michael. On Monday night, I thought I had it finished – down to the last word – the last comma. Then came Tuesday night – I think a lot while riding – last night it was all about Michael.
I cannot tell you of Michaels early years, of his talents, his ambitions, his achievements – those things many of you may know, and they are for those closer to Michael to relate.
I cannot tell you of Michaels recent years – I did not know him even then. Of the talents I am now hearing of, the things Michael cared about and for – these things only cement for me the terrible loss this person is to us all – whether we knew him since birth, or for only a short time.
I have known Michael only a little over three years.
Like most of the cyclists here today, I met Michael through that common interest. To start with, he was ‘that guy over there’ who seemed to lead the Fast Group’ of the ‘Night Espresso’ Tuesday night riders.
I was warned on my first night, when trying to decide which group to ride with that “the fast group take no prisoners”.
However, after a while, I was coaxed to join the ‘fast group’, and then, while riding along, found this guy Michael, to be very willing to engage in conversation – mostly about myself, asking what I had been doing, when I started to ride – many things, but very few about himself. It became quickly apparent that Michael was interested in other people and the world about him.
He was quick to assert his view, keen to learn yours, and if there was anything of doubt that came from the conversation that evening, you could be sure that the next week Michael would be there, with his research done, to advise you of the facts, in a kind and somewhat professorial manner. He quickly became someone I looked forward to seeing each time we gathered – it became our habit to lead out and chat (while I still had the breath to talk !)
As part of the preparations for our memorial gathering last week, I called in to our after-ride café Bocelli, to advise that we would be later than usual, explain what we were doing, and to ensure they would still be open for us. Marco who normally serves us asked who we had lost. He did not know Michael by name, but when he learned who we were grieving for, his first comment was “that’s the guy who always chatted to me – always had a friendly greeting – we laughed together.” I left him deeply shocked and saddened.
That was Michael – he was genuine, he cared, he was interested in you.
One evening while discussing my performance up hills (or lack of it !) the subject of iron levels and vitamin B12 came up. Next week Michael arrived with a months supply of B12 tablets for me. I thanked him for his care and on asking “how much ?”, all he said was “don’t worry about it, you’ve given me a few spare tubes, and anyway” – he said with a grin – “I’m your supplier now !”
There has been an amazing response to Michael’s death - the forums, the e-mails, the calls I have taken – people just needing to talk things through, to try to come to terms with this tragic loss. Michael – if only you could know how much you meant to so many people.
Michael was an enthusiastic cyclist – he had ridden over 100,000km in six years and was working towards his second 100,000. He was strong, he was fit, he had a passion for the sport, and he shared that passion with anyone who was interested.
For me, a lasting picture I will have of Michael is his friendly greeting each Tuesday night and eagerness to engage in conversation on any topic – including cycling !
Also at the start of each climb, with him out of the saddle, his fingers dancing lightly on the bars - making it look so effortless as he pulled away from me - and a number of others !
At the end of one ride – when exhausted - I dropped off the end of the group, he dropped off with me. I told him to go on, but his response was ‘No, let them ride ahead, I’ll ride back to the café with you.”
Michael was a good man – he was generous in time and resources. He gave away much of what he earned to charities.
He was highly intelligent, he was fastidious – whatever he did, he did well. He also had a gentleness about him. He was a friend to many and he will be sadly missed.
This is a celebration of Michael’s life – although we cannot help but be sad.
For us, a mate has died - no other person can draw from us quite the same responses or inspire the same ideas as this friend. The uniqueness of this friendship and the potential of what could have been is lost to us and to the world forever.
This loss should focus us on how fleeting our time on this earth can be, and how we should value the things and people that make our lives meaningful.
It should stop us from taking so much for granted – help us value what it is each person and each pleasure brings into our lives, so that we appreciate this gift of life.
Michael left us far sooner than any of us could have ever imagined, but is now in the loving hands of God – it is a safe place to be.
May a renewed appreciation for life and caring for people in our lives, be his legacy to us all.
Today when the time comes, a lone cyclist will lead Michael to his final resting place.
We will cycle behind - it will be our last ride with Michael physically with us, but he will be close in spirit for ever.
There are people who come and go, leaving never a mark on our world.
Then there are others whom we cannot help but notice in life, and who in their passing, leave a legacy rich in memories, and those who have been touched by time spent with such a person.
Michael was certainly one such person.
The memories are indeed rich, and there are many who consider ourselves fortunate to have counted this man as a friend.
David Burnett – ‘Night Espresso’
Thanks for posting this heart-felt obituary. It explains to those of us who didn't know Michael,
why he had such an impact on many people in the cycling community.